Friday, 6 June 2008

Flying visits all round

Dumbarton Rock this evening

Following on from my thinking in my last blog post, I decided to take a day to go back south and visit my parents. The old boy racer was still blowing up his pipes at 83, a fine sight! After wrestling with my mums overgrown hedges for an afternoon with much carnage with the trimmers I decided to stop off at Dumbarton Rock on the way home for a stint on my old black wall circuits for the daily pump.

Norman MacLeod terrorises the neighbours again

What a strange experience it was being back again. I was hoping I might catch up with the Canadians Sonnie Trotter (almost at the end of his month there working on my climb Rhapsody) and Cory. But as it was pouring with rain and thunder clouds rumbled, there was noone there but me. That was kind of nice in a way because it was exactly the same as when I lived there and hung out among the boulders in the morning, really late in the evening, or in the depth of winter when folks headed for the warmth of the climbing wall.

I’d deliberately forgotten the sequences for my old endurance circuits on the everdry wall, so I didn’t try to rescue them from my memory – my body remembered them instinctively and I just climbed. That was nice, it must be like that often for people who are naturally good at climbing. What a thought. It was also nice to feel the reference against old markers of fitness. I have improved. The improvement is down to lots of things to do with my training, but cannot be completely attributed to this. The other part is due to the flatter smoother walls of Lochaber rock and less opportunity to apply technique. After many years studying in the movement technique laboratory of the Dumbarton walls, I felt this is what my climbing needed to move to the next level. At Dumbarton, the routes do not tend to yield to raw power, even in some abundance. But they do yield (after serious application) to devious, subtle and high quality movement technique.

After this apprenticeship of 13 years, I can find as good a sequence as any man on a climb, but I’m still ‘weak as’. The rather more ‘basic’ and powerful moves I’ve been doing since then, on limestone and on the slaty flat walls of Glen Nevis have made a marked difference to my strength level. Happy days. So I have good energy to return to my project with.

I hope Sonnie and Cory have a good final day in Scotland. It’s been great to see them over here again enjoying the basalt. People get a little too hung up about the fact that Dumbarton is not visually representative of what Scotland has to offer. Sure, it’s setting is not the finest in a country of beauty. But they forget that the beauty of the place is in the moves on the basalt, it’s not a visual thing.

Talking of which, I read that folk have been disappointed that Rhapsody has an escape line at a couple of points. I was disappointed with this also when I was working on it, but hey sometimes you can’t have everything. It’s got good moves, good rock, good difficulty and good situation even if the line is not 100% perfect. What it really is, is a wee gem for locals with nice moves. It’s not important anyway – if it appeals to the climber, they will climb it or otherwise…

I guess my hope is that if people end up climbing the other lines, they see that they are different routes, not the climb I made; Rhapsody. The redpoint crux on my route is the last move. It’s possible even at the very end to traverse off to the left arête and avoid this. What a shame! I decided to climb the crack all the way to the end which for me was logical, and the most difficult option on the wall. But at least Rhapsody’s documentation in the film E11 makes it obvious where the route goes and that the very last moves are what provides the difficulty in ultimately getting to the top on the lead.

Falling from the redpoint crux of Rhapsody (going for the top of the crag). Unfortunately it’s possible to use the chalked holds to traverse left towards the photographer and some good holds on an arête. But where would be the fun in that!?

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